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The Ruttle Report - Me and the boys in the band

Playing music is a kind of release for people, and it was for me when I was younger.
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I walked into the building last Thursday night and the memories just came flooding back to me.

The gut-punching drums, the locomotive bass lines, the pulses from every strike of a guitar chord. It was a group known as Bad Influence, and they're from right here in Outlook. They took the stage at The Roxy by storm, entering the venue's band wars competition, and I was very impressed with what I saw.

This technically was the same group that I saw perform at last year's Prairie Festival during the street dance, including a killer cover of 'Detroit Rock City' by legendary rock group KISS, but something was different. And it didn't take long for me to figure out what it was.

This gig had something on the line. A proverbial carrot being dangled in front of not only this band, but every other performer who had taken the stage or is still scheduled to take the stage.

After all, what's a band wars competition without a prize at the end of it all? And this prize is pretty cool from my perspective. First off, the winning band gets $1000 cash, but aside from the probable gas money, the winners get to record a three-song professional demo and an opportunity to headline their own show.

Sounds pretty good to me.

I wish such an opportunity was around when I was bangin' and clangin' in my teenage years.

I used to be in a band. I played drums. We were good, certainly not great, but man, those were some good times. We were called Drift, and we formed not that long after I got my first drum set for Christmas in 1999.

I don't know what it was about the drums, but they called to me one afternoon when my mom and I were in Long & McQuade, the musical instrument store in Saskatoon. She walked off, having to deal with a guitar situation for my brother, and that's when I saw them - a full-blown Tama drum kit. Whoa, I thought to myself. Lars plays Tama! Lars, of course, is Lars Ulrich, the drummer for the iconic hard rock group Metallica. Lars was indeed a Tama man, and after I noticed a pair of sticks sitting on the bass drum, I sat right down and picked them up.

Going through Metallica's song catalog in my head, I narrowed my playing choices down to a few. Then I narrowed THOSE choices down to just one, so I went for it. 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' off the band's 1984 masterpiece album, 'Ride the Lightning'. I put the sticks to good use and started playing. Luckily, the store wasn't overly busy, so I wasn't bothering anyone by giving these drums the hands-on approach to testing them out. Out of the corner of my eye, however, I did notice that my mom was watching.

When I was telling her how much fun I had playing, I think she already knew what I was going to ask for Christmas months later.

And that's exactly what I asked for - a drum set.

Mom played it cool, though. The seasoned Christmas provider that she was, Mrs. Claus had a perfect poker face and just gave me the 'Oh, we'll see' treatment whenever I brought the subject up. You can imagine my disappointment when I woke up on Christmas morning of 1999 and didn't see a sizable drum set nestled underneath the tree. Or, rather, sitting beside it.

Then Mom said that we needed to go to Ken Blixt's house a couple of streets away to pick up some food that she had stored there for supper later that night. Uh, okay, I guess? Of course, Mom specifically asking me to go with her probably should've been my major clue. We walk into Ken's, my eyes dart to one of his spare bedrooms, and there it is - a CB drum set. Black and dark blue, this thing is an absolute beauty. I was floored, I was excited, and I was so happy that my mom came through for me this particular Christmas. This was it - I was now a drummer.

So what does a drummer do once he gets some drums? He finds someone with a guitar, or hell, maybe two of them, and you'd better throw in someone who wants to take care of vocals! Fast forward to March of 2000, and I'm in the basement of my friend Kevin's house. He mans the guitar, I man the drums, and together we crank out a few Metallica covers, a few Pantera ones, and a few Nirvana tunes, and just get a feel for what each of us can do. We like it, we dig it.

It's not long afterward that my other friends Jared and Barrett factor into the equation. Jared's on vocals & bass and Barrett's a fantastic guitarist, and together, the four of us sound pretty decent. It isn't long before we're asking the music teacher at school to let us use the band room at noon hours every Friday, and the arrangement is given the green light.

I'll tell ya, some of those Friday sessions were absolute bangers. We enjoyed the freedom we had, and the privacy was a good touch, too. Sure, people could easily hear us out in the hallway, but as long as they couldn't watch us perform, we were all good. Hey, everybody gets nervous in front of a crowd, okay? Honestly though, as time went on, we'd let the odd one or two fellow students in to watch us perform. I can still remember one particular Friday where we were going hard on some Metallica covers, and I ended up dropping my drum stick mid-song. I made my other hand take over both parts for 3-4 seconds while I fished on the floor for the other stick. No one seemed to notice and the song didn't suffer, but when I looked back up, one student who got into the room to watch was watching me wide-eyed and just raised a big thumbs up. What can I say, nothing stops the music.

Drift ended up lasting about three years before we disbanded. We played music, we had fun, and then we just kinda stopped. It happens.

But man, anytime I hear great rock music and I know that the people playing it are local, it just takes me back to high school, when my friends and I rode the lightning and I was busy tolling those proverbial bells.

Good luck in the band wars, Bad Influence. You've got an entire community and then some watching your back.

For this week, that's been the Ruttle Report.

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